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The 7 Main Things Directors Look for in a Dance Audition

Updated: Jan 31, 2019

By: Katie Mann, Founding & Executive Director

dancers warming up
Dancers warming up before an Exhalations audition

Exhalations Dance Theatre just hosted auditions for our winter performance Kinetic Emotion! I love auditions! I love seeing our dancers come back for another season, and I love seeing new talented dancers auditioning to be a part of our company! When we host an audition we really do want everyone to have a good time and feel they are doing their best, but auditions can be extremely nerve-racking for everyone. I remember the feeling of anxiety from just putting my number on and walking in to stretch!

I just wanted to give a little bit of insight into what we as directors are looking for at a contemporary dance audition; hopefully this can ease everyone’s anxiety for their next time in front of a judge’s table!

1. Be Prepared.

We hope a potential dancer has at minimum followed us on social media or has gone to our website, and has some knowledge of at least our style of dance if not some of our repertoire. We don’t mind emails before the audition inquiring about our company, or the audition itself! It shows that you are interested. Submitting the correct paperwork online and/or in person according to the guidelines  is a simple task, but really adds to your credibility as a responsible dancer. Also, be on time for the audition! (I know it sounds self-explanatory, but its extremely important!)

2. Confidence hides a multitude of sins.

We would rather see confident dance choices than correct choreography at an audition always. Its easy to overlook a choreography mistake on a dancer when they seem sure of themselves. Confidence also tends to draw the judges’ eye to you. You don’t necessarily have to be the best technical dancer in a performance group to receive all of the director’s attention. REMEMBER:

When you walk into an audition you will only hurt yourself by comparing your abilities and appearance to others; you should only worry about presenting the best version of yourself to the judges’ table.

This is the best way to keep your self-esteem and energy up throughout the audition.

3. Versatility is key.

Typically in our auditions, and in many other modern-day dance companies, you will be asked to perform a variety of styles. We want dancers who are proficient in many forms since we have multiple choreographers who all have different voices, and highlight different aspects of contemporary dance. You may be an amazing ballet dancer, and I really want you to find a way to showcase that to me, but I also need to know that you will look comfortable rolling around on the floor if needed.

4. Technique.

The dreaded word. Yes, we want to see pointed toes, straight knees, tight fifths, the whole nine yards please! When I see a dancer’s clean technique I know I have a blank canvas to work on when I am setting choreography. We also feel comfortable setting challenging repertoire on them or placing them in photoshoots since we know their body placement will photograph well. So the moral of the story: get to ballet class!!!

5. Improvisation skills are, like, number one

In an audition, for the obvious reason of course; we want to see how you move to music that is assigned to you. We also want you to showcase what you’re good at. Maybe we didn’t have a combination that included extensions and you have legs up to here? Let us see that. Maybe turning is your specialty? We need to see that too.

Improv is also very important in case you are dancing and forget the choreography for a combination. Some people love it, some people hate it (me), but it is VERY important for every dancer to keep working on improv consistently throughout their training.

6. Use your appearance to stand out!

It’s not always easy to remember numbers following an audition, and its not always easy to see them in an audition video either. Wearing something bright or distinctive not only helps you stand out in the moment/video, but helps you stand out in the director’s memory. This doesn’t always have to be a shirt or leotard; it could be a different way you wear your hair, or bright red lipstick! At the audition we like to see clean lines, tight clothes, and secure hair. A pet peeve of mine is extremely baggy clothes at an audition where I can barely see the dancer’s body at all!

7. Gratitude.

Finally, we are so happy that you have come to the audition, and when you thank us following the audition in person, and with a follow up email we really do remember and we really do appreciate it! When dancers show a grateful attitude and a willingness to be “a part of the team” we are much more willing to want to work with them. I feel like I am safe to assume other dance companies feel that way as well. As a student I never felt as though a part would be handed to me; I had to work for it. I feel today that not every student has that same mentality.

We appreciate humbleness and a cooperative mindset more than you could imagine!

I hope this has pulled back the curtain a little on what we directors are thinking as we sit at the judges table! There are many factors when deciding if a dancer will be a part of the company. Sometimes it can be extremely disappointing to not be cast in a production you were looking forward to (I promise I 100% understand; I have been there!), but please don’t be discouraged! Use it as an opportunity to grow, become a better artist, and try again! Most companies (including us) will give you feedback if you ask for it immediately following the audition; keep that in mind for any future auditions!

Do you have any burning audition questions?? Comment, message, or tweet us!

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